Chapter 147 – Wither
Elman pulled out his sword; a metallic scraping sound against the scabbard was released, with the blade glinting slightly in the darkness.
“Who’s there?” He furrowed his brows and asked with a wary expression.
A light giggle came in response. The laughter was not far away, and Elman saw the air in front of an ancient tree shimmer before a woman walked out with sauntering footsteps.
She had a pair of long pointed ears and her long purple hair flowed sleekly behind them like a waterfall. Her upper body swayed lightly while she walked, and her fingers combed through the top of her hair. The long eyelashes cast a darker shadow over her light purple irises, and combined with a beautiful almond-shape face with purple lips, made one feel that she was captivating.
However, it was the features of her lower body that captured the group’s eyes. Vines and thorny brambles completely formed her ‘legs’, and they extended to cover her ample chest with the stray vines reaching to her neck and cheeks.
[What is with this appearance? A naked woman covered in vines? Someone crazy? Or perhaps some kind of legendary creature in bardic tales like a Dryad?]
Elman continued to point his sword at her. The woman smiled faintly, pointed at the sword and said: “Young man, what do you hope to accomplish with that thing? Hurt me? Protect yourself?”
Rono’s reaction was slower than Elman as he was distracted by the woman’s appearance. He blushed before regaining his senses, and raised his pointed eyebrows and demanded: “Who are you? We’re Aouine’s ambassadors and not to be trifled with—”
The woman giggled: “How cunning.”
She slowly walked forward to them like she did not see the sword in Elman’s hands, the vines and brambles squirming as she did so. They were like a pair of gigantic worms and made the group’s hair stand on end.
“Rono. Disciple of Grandmaster Heumann, the young Alchemist prodigy of Kirrlutz. But you also possess the nickname of Wolverine. You severely injured eleven and killed two in Kirrlutz’s Royal Academy of Magic. What lies beneath your shy exterior is a savage heart.”
She turned to Faena and Elman with smiling eyes.
“As for this girl. Faena, The little princess of the Duke of Flowers, Lord Menedicia, and the only successor to the dukedom. Finally, viscount Elman, a noble-born out of a lowborn mother. You are just as brilliant as your siblings, but who can see the depths of your ambition?”
Elman’s lips jerked when he heard the words lowborn.
“As for this little girl behind you. Indeed, she’s indeed someone from Aouine, but her background appears to be insignificant since I did not get a report on her. I am a little intrigued by that interesting lord of hers though.”
“If you’re interested then go ahead and look for him.” Faena glared at the half-naked woman. Her greatest taboo was when a stranger divulged her identity as the successor of a duke: “You shameless woman!”
She turned around to the black-haired youth: “Rono, what are you looking at!”
The youth’s face turned red and looked back at her like he was wronged: “I don’t think this is the time to say something like that, Faena.”
“Hmph,” Faena gritted her teeth with a huff, “all of you men are bad!”
Dia was the only one who did not speak and was secretly prepared for a fight. She had the least experience amongst the Mercenaries of Lopes, but she was at least ready with the basics.
“What exactly are your intentions, my lady?” Elman watched the woman get closer to them and started becoming anxious. He placed his sword in an aggressive stance and threatened to cut her.
But he could not imagine that his words caused the woman to giggle instead. She walked up to him and flicked against his sword with her finger:
“You humans call this thing a sword. It’s a weapon that can protect you or hurt someone….. Because you believe that the human body is fragile, and metal is something that is sturdy. Tools are the specialty of civilizations. Unfortunately, this thing in your hands is no different from your bodies and it is just as frail. Everything decays and withers, and the only thing that will persist is Chaos.”
Her purple eyes locked onto Elman, and as she spoke, the sword in Elman’s hand actually spawned a purple rose. The rose’s petals fell off individually against the wind and withered, while the sword’s blade rusted and crumbled into dust as though it had aged for thousands of years.
“A member of the evil cults!”
Everyone was shocked to discover her identity, but it could not compare to the moment when they witnessed Elman’s sword crumbling into dust.
The Element Power that caused decay.
They could only think of one person who was a member of the evil cults and possessed the Withering Element Power in the entire continent.
“W-w-wi…….” Faena’s face was as white as a sheet. She stared at the woman and pointed with her finger, stuttering because she was terrified.
Elman retreated a few steps and immediately drew out his spare shortsword. He knew that there was no meaning to continue talking the moment he knew her true identity.
The only thing that mattered was to act first.
This time, the reactions from Rono were just as fast as Elman’s, and he threw more than a dozen bombs at the woman even before her words ended. But she raised her right hand at the same time he acted, and a net of vines burst out from the ground with loud rustles. When the bombs came into contact with them, they exploded violently and nearly injured the youth instead.
Rono covered his face and rolled backward. His hand stretched out and the metallic orbs that he carried with him floated onto the air, rotating around him before they started drawing a Magic Formation.
But a few seconds later he dropped his jaw. The artifacts’ metallic surface started to rust, while the Magicite in them became dull and void of light. They plopped down onto the ground and rolled towards a dirty puddle of water, and he could not feel any connection to them any longer.
Elman rushed forward with his sword raised. However, his target was not the terrifying woman, but Faena. The girl looked on in confusion, but her subconscious mind instinctively got her hand to pull out her sword. Mana surged into the rapier, causing white light to flare out to form a shield.
Unfortunately, such shoddy arcane magic was no match for Elman’s full assault. His brute force disarmed Faena’s sword, and he grabbed her by the throat, turning her around and placing his sword on her neck.
The entire process was such a surprise that everyone froze.
Dia was the first to recover and immediately activated her prepared magic. Ice shot out from her hands and flew towards Elman in the shape of a dragon. Frost followed its path with an eruption of harsh cracking sounds, but Elman used Faena as a shield who immediately shrieked. Dia was just as startled and she hurriedly canceled her magic. The ice cracked and scattered into countless pretty shards.
Elman stared at the strange woman and inhaled deeply. His tone was calm: “I believe your target is her? But I’m sure that a dead successor to the dukedom has no value to you, right?”
Faena took a few moments to understand the sudden turn of events before she gasped. She trembled, not knowing if it was due to her companion’s betrayal, or the fact that she was in a situation full of despair.
[No, Elman must be doing this on purpose. He’s trying to save everyone with this method.]
She convinced herself and felt a little better, but when she recalled Elman’s icy gaze that was like a dead fish, she could not help but quiver. Rono gritted his teeth and kept his silence, who also thought the same as Faena.
“Stop struggling,” Elman said coldly to the shaking girl in his hands.
“Are you crazy, viscount Elman?!” Faena screamed, as she finally realized that Elman was only interested in himself.
“Shut up. If you want to live, stop talking!”
“You……” She was still indignant, but his blade sank into her skin slightly, causing a small ripple of pain, and she forced back her words.
[T-that damn country bumpkin, Commander Veronica, or someone, save me…..!]
She was crying inside her heart, but she thought of that horrible youth first.
The woman who watched the chain of events glanced at Dia and said: “Hmm? A Water Elementalist. But how does a Water Elementalist possess such a potent telepathic power?”
Dia’s expression changed: “It’s you, you’re the one who disrupted brother Brendel’s communication with me!”
“Oh? Is he called Brendel? I watched that interesting boy lead those young men quite well against the wolves. Thank you very much, little girl!”
Dia was furious. She stretched out her hand and Ice Arrows were fired at the woman. But they were turned back into water after a short distance, and the woman smiled faintly: “The Laws of Magic last only but for a moment. Indeed, the original form of Mana looks best.”
She raised her hand. Countless vines answered in response and reached for Dia. The young Wild Elf tried to resist by casting several spells at them, but she was bound tightly in the end.
“You haven’t answered me,” Elman watched Dia get bound up with emotionless eyes and said.
“Your question?” The woman turned around and sneered: “You think your little tricks can fool me?”
“You really think I don’t dare to kill her?”
Elman forced his sword deeper into Faena’s pale neck, and a visible wound appeared. He stared at the woman: “What about now?”
“Are you crazy?” Rono roared, but he stood where he was, afraid that he would trigger that madman into doing something truly insane.
The woman narrowed her eyes. She thought Elman was pretending to take her hostage, but it seemed like he really was a mass of cruelty.
“Interesting. You want to live?” She said.
“Very well, I’ll give you a chance. Kill that boy, and then follow me.” She ordered lightly as she gazed pleasantly at Rono.
Rono stared back in surprise, but he cried out in pain a second later. He looked at the crossbow bolt sticking out from his chest in disbelief before he looked up at Elman.
The projectile had poison on it, which was even mixed with his own hands. The goal was to deal with the monsters in the Dark Forest, but he could not have imagined that he would be the first experiment. He did not think that Elman would be so decisive and looked at him with incomprehension.
His body fell backward.
“Rono! Have you gone mad? What have you done, Elman!” Faena could not believe her eyes. Tears gathered in her eyes as memories of the shy boy came flooding in her mind.
But Elman did not look at her and continued to hold his sword against her neck. He threw away the crossbow in his left hand and looked at the woman.
The latter looked at this scene with interest and clapped her hands: “You’re just like I expected. Clean and decisive. You do have the potential to join us.”
She tilted her head with a smile: “Do you want to?”
Elman did not doubt that a refusal would end up in his death. He hesitated for a moment before he nodded. When he did so, his nerves that were fraught with anxiety was flushed with relief. As a rising talent amongst the high nobles in the Kirrlutz Empire, he believed that he still had value in her eyes.
[She won’t harm a new initiate.]
But this thought was ended in an instant. The vine that was slithering behind him moved in a blur and pierced through his neck and emerged out from his throat.
The blood that spurt out drenched Faena’s neck.
She felt the man he had known for years fell heavily onto the ground with a thud. Her thoughts were blank and she fell down on both her knees, unable to utter a single word.
The woman stretched out a hand. Vines emerged in front of her, carrying a coiled thorny whip. She took and swung it at where she was standing. A violent shockwave streaked past Faena and cleaved Elman’s body into two, causing the air to rain with blood as the two parts flew away.
She swung the whip again, coiling it around Elman’s short sword and hurled it at Dia. The blade penetrated her heart, and she struggled for a while before her head drooped down.
“How foolish. Does he think that I am similar to the weak fools in the Unifying Guild who are obsessed with authority?” She smiled with satisfaction.
“Power is nothing more than an illusion. One day, the throne will turn into dust.” She glanced at Faena, her lips raising upwards: “As for you, little girl, you are indeed of a little use to me. Come, I’ll bring you to make a transaction— I really do love how the humans put it, a transaction.”